Graves Beats
Werth in First
Round of Finals

13 April 2018

American dethrones Werth, the 'Queen of Dressage'

Laura Graves of the USA won the Grand Prix at the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals in Paris on Friday, taking the lead in the two-day event that pits some of the world’s top riders in a competition of equestrian artistry and athleticism.


Graves, who scored 81.413 on 16-year-old Verdades, was a threat from the start to defending World Cup™ champion Isabell Werth, as she gave a stunning test that demonstrated everything the seven judges were looking for: powerful impulsion from behind, a bouncy piaffe, dramatic traveling changes on the diagonal, and clean pirouettes.


Werth, of Germany, had to settle for second place in the Grand Prix, with her score of 78.555 aboard Weihegold OLD--unusual for the rider who has taken so many firsts in qualifying events leading to the City of Light.


Werth started her programme with her usual precision and cleanliness, but ran into a bit of trouble in her tempi which, because of their double coefficient in scoring, brought down her final marks. 

“You relax, and that’s when mistakes happen, so I’m certainly not taking this for granted.”

Graves gets the boost she needs going into the final

The Grand Prix is the most difficult of all dressage tests, and it’s designed to test horses when they are most fatigued at the end of their performance.


Scores can apply to enormous, ground-covering movements or to a split-second transition from one gait to another. With judges watching every move from markers around the entire ring, there’s nowhere to hide a mistake.


"It’s a nice support behind us going in to tomorrow’s finals, but she (Werth) is very, very difficult to beat in the freestyle and I don’t expect the same mistake she had today to happen tomorrow," Graves said following her win in Paris. 


“This is a big support, so it for sure gives me the boost that I need and I know now, going into tomorrow, that this can be done.”


The audience at the Paris Accor Hotels Arena was treated to a number of superb Grand Prix performances from riders around the globe, including Europe, Asia, and North America.


As the strains of Offenbach’s “Gaîté Parisienne” filled the stadium at the interim break, Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann-Andersen was holding the lead with a score of 74.130.


Bachmann-Andersen’s top score held until the 13th rider, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, who ultimately finished third with a score of 75.667, when she was edged out by Werth.


Fourth place in Friday’s Grand Prix went to another German, Dorothee Schneider, who earned a 75.310.


The highly contended fifth spot was won by Patrik Kittel of Sweden, who scored 74.689 and will round out the competitors who get to ride last in Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle, giving them an edge towards a podium position.

Werth ran
into a bit
of trouble

Anything can happen...

Seventeen of the 18 riders from Friday’s event who earned scores of 60 per cent or greater will move forward to the freestyle competition on Day 2, where horse and human pairs will perform the same movements tested in the Grand Prix, this time choreographed to music in the order they please to showcase their horses’ finest abilities and unique personalities.


While the freestyle riders in the final group of five have the likeliest chance of making it to the podium, anything can happen with the pressure of elite international competition.


Riders in the top 10 spots can’t be ruled out, especially since everyone starts with a fresh score on Day 2.


Follow Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle on FEI TV to cheer for your favourite rider and see who wins the coveted FEI World Cup™ Dressage Championship.


Text by Patricia Salem

Images by FEI/Liz Gregg